Charlotte's Web Ideas

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Charlotte's Web ~ I'm so excited to share one of my favorite books with you for my weekly Wait for it Wednesday blog post:

Charlotte's Web is a beloved story ~ such an easy read just as easy to fall in love with... I remember so clearly sitting in my third grade class listening to this story and then taking turns doing a Reader's Theater on it.  I was the goose and Wilbur for different chapters.  I had read the story before with my mom so the ending wasn't a surprise to me.  I looked around the room and saw kids with tears coming down their face.  It was the first time they read the story and it was soo sad!  My teacher Miss Baggie told us that great stories will bring out emotions.  That good writers can bring you to tears of sorrow or joy by how they write the story and develop the characters and story line.  Of course pretty much anything Miss Baggie said I thought was gold because she was an amazing teacher and I adored her...but she was absolutely right.

There are so many wonderful ways to do extensions of this story as well as just reading it for pleasure!  This book opens the door for such topics as theme, predictions, character analysis and traits and so much more.  

My partner teacher and I always show the movie after we read the book and then do a venn diagram comparing and contrasting the movie with the book.  This book also has such rich vocabulary for 2nd - 4th graders and it's a great time to introduce this new vocabulary to them as well.  The ideas are truly endless for this story:
It's a great way to teach cross curricular intentionally.  Teaching about spiders is great for science, there are several STEM activities that can be found on pinterest under Charlotte's Web too.  Keeping a journal as one of the characters is a great way to get your kids writing and you can teach mini lessons along the way on punctuation or grammar.  The great thing is that this book is so amazing that it motivates your students to do the book extensions.  They want to talk about the characters through a simple book talk because they are so drawn to them.  Getting them in small groups to discuss the book is awesome and you will see and hear them being engaged and excited about what they read.
I hope you are able to fit this story into your teaching career at some point, it is one of the best pieces of literature out there in my opinion.  If you are looking for extension activities that are low prep and ready to go you can take a closer look at my pack by clicking the picture below:

I'd love to hear some fun ways you extend this story in the comments!  Happy teaching! 


Math Games

Tuesday, February 21, 2017
It's a math edition of my weekly series 

thanks for joining me ~ be sure to check in every Wednesday for different topics and tips to help you through your teaching journey.

Math games are a great way to give kids time to explore number sense and strategies in a non threatening way.  I know, your classroom is a safe, fun, engaging and loving place.  Sometimes no matter how 'safe' your classroom is - kids can create their own sense of urgency or stress when it comes to math.  I'm the perfect example of that....
When I was in Kinder I was brilliant!  Totally kidding!  But I was tagged as smart/gate because I was an excellent reader.  ( My mom was a teacher which helped ).  So I was put in a 1/2 combo class with only 4 first graders.  The teacher was old ( like ready to should've  retire(d) any day old ) and told us she was teaching that class like a straight second grade.  So I tell people I sorta kinda skipped first and went straight to second grade.  I'll never forget raising my hand when she was teaching borrowing.  I was already apprehensive because I was younger than everyone else.  I told my teacher I was having trouble understanding the concept because I never really even did basic subtraction. ( remember this is the 70's ) we played kitchen for 1/2 our day in kinder back then. LOL
She promptly said, " I don't have time for this, you are suppose to be one of the smart ones!"  " You'll just have to learn it on your own. " The second grader sitting next to me ( I still remember her name ) leaned over and said, " you're so stupid!".  I was beyond defeated, devastated, heartbroken.  Do you know that unfortunately that exchange of words and how I felt inside set the stage for my feelings towards math for the rest of my life?  I know that sounds extreme but I have never liked ever!  I always struggled and had ZERO growth mindset in regards to my success at math.  How sad is that?!?!  I never did raise my hand again in that class with a math question.  #sadsville
I wanted to tell that story to illustrate how easy it is for kids to get to that place.  Not necessarily from a teacher but from other kids, their own sense of self worth, etc.  Math is definitely one of those subjects that teachers need to be sure to give lots of encouragement.

So ~ back to our topic this week.... I LOVE math games and just in the last couple of years I have come to LOVE math in spite of that icky teacher.  Math has become probably my favorite subject to teach which I never thought I would say. #successstory
But really I see such a value in math games it allows kids to explore math with partners, in small groups or on their own. It's amazing how explaining to a peer how you got an answer or why you think what you do has such power.  I have seen the quietest child speak up during math games with a partner due to either excitement or just plain curiosity.

Playing games encourages strategic mathematical thinking. Students are having to find different strategies for solving problems either on their own or with a partner.  They are required to deepen their understanding of number concepts.  Whether you are working on ten frames, fractions or word problems ~ you have just opened the door for critical thinking to happen in a fun, engaging way.
•     When certain games are played repeatedly, they support and help develop the student's automaticity especially when working with fact fluency.
•     Students are given much needed practice on a concept without a teacher there to guide them through every step.  All too often we are rushing through concepts - onto the next Unit or need more time!   Once a concept has been taught and students seem to have a decent grasp on it then games are the perfect way to extend that concept and get them thinking deeper on it.  We as teachers can then switch to the role of observer or facilitator walking around the room guiding, asking questions and watching.  I've learned to ask: WHY instead of give an answer.  Often that extra step gets them thinking and they realize the answer on their own. 
•     Games help students  develop familiarity  with the concept at hand.  In doing that, they are gaining confidence and often helping their peers along the way.

I have some games that have worked well in my classroom over the years.  They are mainly for addition and work well with partners.

math games for first grade - lots of hands on and engaging activities

All you really need for these games are dice and you are all set.  I now have a collection of dice that I've gathered over the years.  Large colorful dice, small regular ones, rainbow colored dot dice, soft quiet dice.  You name it I probably have it.  That makes learning fun too.  If you are interested in a closer look at these math games you can check them out here by clicking the link or watching a few of my videos explaining them below.  There are 9 games in the pack:  The games are: 
The 9 games/activities are:
* Roll and Color/Dab/Cover
* Roll a Number Sentence
* Comparing numbers
* Clear it Off
* Add it Up
* Fact Family Rolls
* Double Down Race to the Top
* Counting On
* Partner Game

I hope you can incorporate math games if you haven't tried them yet, it will really transform math in your classroom.  Good luck and happy teaching!


The benefits of Scoot or Task Cards

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Scoot or task cards

I wanted to talk to you guys about the use of Scoot or task cards in the classroom.  I just incorporated them last year.  Why did I wait so long?!?!  If you are unsure of what Scoot is, like I was let me explain it to you.  Scoot is a whole- class educational game/activity.  A task card is placed on every desk in the classroom and the students move around the room with a clipboard and a recording sheet answering the questions.  Now there are a few different ways to play this game:

If you have a flexible seating classroom here is an option on how to play:

Using Scoot in the primary classroom

Scoot is wonderful for so many reasons:
It gets kids UP and MOVING!  This is so important and has become less of a priority unfortunately to many schools/districts.  Kids need more movement in their day!  This is a wonderful way to break up the monotony of the day and get them moving around. 
Scoot is the perfect way to review a concept that you've been working on.  I actually take the time to grade their recording sheets to be sure they are getting the concept.  In third grade I often have them grade it, trade with a neighbor.  I put the answer key under the doc cam revealing one answer at a time and we go over it.  It's the perfect way to see how they are doing and if re teaching is necessary! 
**If you have more desks than cards you can add BRAIN break cards.  Either just write brain break on a sticky note and write jump 15 times or do 15 jumping jacks, touch your toes 15 times, etc.  That way if you are playing the traditional way you have something for every desk. **

I have added several Scoot games to my store if you are interested and want to give it a try ~ I'll be adding more over the next several weeks.

Using Scoot in the primary classroom


Counting On Strategy and Mental Math

Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Happy hump day ~ it's already Wednesday friends!

I wanted to talk to you guys today about the strategy of 'counting on'.  What exactly does that mean, and what does it look like?  Counting on is when you start with the larger number in a number sentence and count on the smaller number.  This truly makes more sense than starting with the smaller number.  It's more efficient and takes much less time.  

There are so many ways to help your students with this:  

1.) Give your students a number chart to 120.  They can find the number on it: say 107 and color it in or place a marker on it.  Then count on from there the 2nd number. 107 + 3 = 110.

2.)  On a worksheet or white boards once they have several problems have them circle the larger number and count on from there.

3.)  Grab my Counting On Math Mats and have them do a hands on approach.  They will love this hands on and engaging activity.  The left side of the mat is where they place the bigger number and smash it down with their fist while saying it.  Then they count on from there.  You can grab it ( here ) for only $2.

Counting on strategies for young learners, mental math and counting mats

4. ) Use unifex cubes as another hands on way to count on.
They will tap their head and say the bigger number than count off the cubes they need to add on and count on from there.

Lastly if you use touch points ( which when I taught first it worked great for the little ones that had trouble ).  They can use touch point cards to literally count on.

I hope this has been helpful and you can truly feel successful with your littles that are struggling with this concept.  Let me know if you tried any of these in the past.  Happy teaching!


Presidents' Day Ideas for the Classroom

Sunday, February 12, 2017
There's a lot going on this week:  Valentine's Day and President's Day and all the fun that comes with them.
I've already shared lots of ideas for Valentine's Day ~ if you missed it you can read about it { here }

social studies unit for president's day
If you want a closer look at my president's pack you can see it 

As you can see there a lot of things to cover!  It's a great time to incorporate informational text and talk to your younger students about the differences between fiction and non fiction.

I like to use this when I teach on that concept:  It includes a fun headbandz game on the text features that my kids LOVE!!

My team teacher and I made these cute Abe handprints a few years back, it's easy especially if you have parent helpers.

abe lincoln handprint craft, craft

My president pack has lots of skills covered in it, from writing to math to art.  Here's a closer look:

presidents day poem

presidents day craftivity

I love these crafts because their hats have pages in them.  The George Washington's craft has writing under his chin and true/false pages in his hat.  While the Abe Lincoln craft has writing pages in his hat.

There are several math skill pages - skip counting, color by number, comparing numbers, etc.  
There are also sight words pages, sight word mini books, poetry and fact sorts.

president's day pack

Have your students do a coin rub of the presidents and learn about which coins/bills they are on:

Here are some great books to read this week as well:

It might also be fun to do a coin rub - hand out pennies and quarters and have them put them under a piece of paper and rub a crayon over them.  They will end with a neat coin rub for each president.

President's Day freebie
If you want to grab this coin rub as a freebie - get it here:

I hope I've given you some ideas for Presidents' Day and you enjoy your week with your students!


Valentine's Day Ideas for home or school

Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Valentine's Day is coming up ~ what do you have planned?

In this Wait for it Wednesday edition I wanted to share some fun ideas for Valentine's Day that you can use at home or school.

I love holidays and will find any excuse to turn a semi regular non traditional holiday into somewhat of a production if given the opportunity.  So as a mom I always found excuses to make things 'fun' and celebratory at home.  Not quite so much at school though...only because 25 loud spirited kids at a holiday party can be a little rough sometimes.  But I wanted to share some ideas to make your Valentine's Day the best yet this year:
I have always put hearts on my children's bedroom doors since they were little with compliments and sweet lovin'.  Someone had an idea to put one a day until the 14th I like that even better.  I would just sneak in while they were sleeping and put them up but the one  a day idea is SUPER CUTE too.  You can read all about it here: 

On Valentine's Day they go on a hunt for hearts in the living room.  When they find all their hearts they get a prize and we have heart shaped pancakes for breakfast!  It's always been a fun treat.

Valentine's Day ideas to use at home for kids

I also have made it a tradition to have a heart shaped pizza every year on Valentine's around to your local pizza restaurants you might find one that does them.  It makes for an easy dinner and the kids have always loved it.

Another special idea is something I did for my husband years ago but you could easily do this for Valentine's Day too.  List reasons you love your spouse - I did 16 for the years we had been married but you could do 14 - one each day until Valentine's Day.  You might do one for every year you've been together it's up to you.  It really meant a lot to him when I did it.  I just taped it to our door so he could see it when he woke up.

Special Anniversary poster idea for your spouse

Now for school - I have a couple of ideas for you:
If you teach little guys ( TK - 1st ) maybe think about NOT having the kids label their Valentine's cards.  First it will take FOREVER for them to write the names at home and secondly many of these littles aren't readers yet so it takes FOREVER to pass them out.  It will be more enjoyable for you and them if they pass out the cards without names.  Not everyone agrees with me I'm sure but it's something I have learned over the years.
This heart craftivity is super cute for the parents if you are interested in having a card made for your student's parents:

I run the 'key' on cute scrapbook paper ~ it's super cute.  My third graders even made them today:  They added heart emoji's and wrote sweet letters and poems to their loved ones.

I started thinking about how I've done the heart on the door tradition for my own children and thought why not do something special like this for my students so...a couple nights ago I took 28 hearts home and wrote a message to each child that was unique to them.  I will leave them on their desks Valentine's Day morning.  I can't wait to see their reaction!

Valentine idea for teachers to give to students

I'd love to hear what you do special for Valentine's Day!  Enjoy it xoxo


The Value of Grief

Saturday, February 4, 2017's a word that brings anxiety, fear, sadness, regret and so many more emotions.  A 5 letter word that can take your breath away and cause you more pain than you thought you could ever know in a lifetime.  It is defined as a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed.  Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it has also physical, cognitive, behavioral, social and philosophical dimensions.  The word that stands out to me is multifaceted - yes grief has so many layers to it.
Nothing can prepare you for the loss of someone close to you...a child, a parent/grandparent, a spouse, a close friend or sibling.  The value in experiencing grief is it shows how much you loved.  Going through grief is not easy, it's definitely a journey but it does make you stronger and you learn more about yourself.
I always knew I was blessed ~ even from a young age.  I knew my parents were amazing and I was always grateful for them.  Even through my teenage years my friends wanted to hang out at my house - largely due to the fact that my parents were awesome!  I'm the only daughter with 3 older brothers, being the only daughter naturally my mom and I formed a tight, healthy loving bond.  I know it's not like that for everyone and that can cause an entire other range of emotions but for me we had certainly become best friends in adulthood.  My mom was healthy, took care of herself, exercised, kept doctor appointments, ate healthy food I didn't want to touch growing up. #givemeallthefrenchfries I NEVER imagined I would've lost her when I did.  I was lucky enough to have her help me plan my wedding, see my children's birth and have some limited time with my kids.  She was such an amazing grandmother...oh I hope to be like her someday.  I strive to be like her in mothering my children as well.  There are moments people close to me tell me I remind them of her, or say, that's something your mom would've done in regards to my parenting.  My heart swells ~ they have no idea what a compliment that is to me.  
February 4th is World Cancer Day and this month is also Bile Duct Cancer (Cholangiocarcinoma) Awareness month.  C-a-n-c-e-r may just be the most hated and fear driven 6 letter word in our world today.   That is the BEAST that took my mom.  It's a rare, brutal cancer - taking most of it's victims within a few months, a few weeks - and in some cases a little more time ~ less than 5 years.  In my case a short 6 months.


What I've learned:  cancer doesn't discriminate,  it can come fast and grief is truly a never ending process.  A very dear friend once told me the pain never really goes away when you lose a loved one, but the 'sting' lightens as time goes by.  I've learned so much in my grief process. 
 For one, I've learned that big milestones are HARD without my mama.  I'll never forget when my teenage daughter had her first behind the wheel lesson to get her drivers license.  I thought I'd go for a run while she was gone for the 2 hours.  I got in my car to drive to my favorite running trail and sobbed.  I couldn't stop crying.  I wanted to call my mom to share the news, I thought about all the milestones my daughter has had while she's been gone it brought up emotions that I wasn't expecting.  When my son received the Student of the Year award at his middle school 8th grade awards banquet for grades, involvement and being an overall good kid I was so thrilled for him and excited...but later that night when no one saw I cried that my mom wasn't there to share in the excitement.
My mom knew me all to well, she was extremely organized and definitely had a type A personality in the sense of organization.  In her hospice binder there was a section that discussed grief counseling.  My dad found it a few days after she passed and showed me that the grief counseling page was dogeared and next to the title was a heart she had drawn with my name written inside.  My dad was like, " um, I think mom's trying to tell you something. " I did end up going through grief counseling for about 9 months.  It did help quite a bit.  Even in her passing she was taking care of me.
I've tried my best to grieve in an emotionally healthy way:  I took up running and have dedicated several races to my  mom, I feel like I can be used by the Lord to encourage people he has brought into my life that are grieving.  Everyone grieves differently and there is no 'right' way.  As a teacher I've been able to teach 5 children since my mom's passing who have either lost a parent or experienced cancer themselves.  I know they were hand picked by God to be in my class and I'm forever grateful that I was chosen to guide them through their difficult times.  My prayer is that I can continue to be an encouragement to others and keep her legacy alive!  Hug your loved ones a bit tighter my friends, you never know how long you have with them. <3